Saturday, November 12, 2011

Patience--A Writer's Elusive Virtue


Are you out of the closet as a writer? And if so, are there days when you wish you could jump back in the closet and board the door up from the inside?

Some days I feel like that. Why? Because now that people know I'm a writer, they expect certain things. Like, a published book. Well-meaning people often ask me, "So how's it going with the book? Is it published yet? Where can I buy it? And don't real writers have books out already?" (Ok, I made up that last part)

Times like this can be tough for writers, but it's also an opportunity to don our wrinkled, dusty "patience" hats. Here's three things we can remember to do:

Be patient with others
Most people who ask about our writing progress are showing genuine interest and are being kind. People that aren't a part of the publishing world don't usually understand how s-l-o-w it is. Just like I don't know how engineering or manufacturing works, most people outside the bookish loop don't know how publishing works, or the arduous steps we must take to reach our goals.

Be patient with the publishing industry
Agents, editors, and interns are hard-working folks, just like you and me. Reading through queries and manuscripts takes a long time. Heck, we know how long it takes to revise our own manuscripts, and these people do it all day every day. We don't want them to rush past our manuscript as if it doesn't matter. If they're taking their time with other manuscripts, hopefully they'll take their time with ours.

Be patient with ourselves
If we're constantly focused on all that we're not, we're ignoring what we are and what we've accomplished so far. Learning a craft and working hard to improve it takes a lot of time. Like, months and years, not days. So even though the process is maddeningly slow, and being patient is sometimes difficult, it's a good virtue to strive for.

Do you find yourself becoming impatient with non-writers, the writing industry, and yourself? If so, how do you handle it? And if you're already published, did you have your own moments of impatience?

And on a kind of/sort of similar subject, you might want to check out this post at Write It Sideways: Can You Really Call Yourself a Writer?

29 comments:

  1. If I'm doing something on the computer that isn't writing or editing my beloved says to me 'how are you going to finish if you don't write it'? Trouble is, he has a point :-)

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  2. You're so right about needing patience, especially when you have work out on submission. It's so tempting to think they've forgotten all about you :( Not nice.

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  3. Most people don't know I write, and those that do have learned not to ask about it anymore. There are only so many times a person can ask how the writing is going with the same answers before everyone gets sick of it. 'It's going fine. It's hard work but I'm still plugging away. Not published yet. Thanks for asking.'

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  4. You're right - we need to enjoy the moment we're in, no matter what that moment.
    And not grumble at the dumb questions we sometimes receive!

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  5. This is a great post, Julie. People who know I write do question me all of the time - "so have you sold a book yet?"

    Earlier this year, we finally had some publication success with a 10 page history article pubbed in a magazine, so it kind of took the pressure off.

    Great "Be patient" tips.

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  6. thanks for this, and the link :)

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  7. Patience is probably the most important thing for a writer to have, and the hardest to cultivate. The industry has become even slower than it was before since every editor and agent are weighing all the pros and cons and few are taking chances like they used to. But people are still getting agents and books are still getting published. To keep myself motivated I like to celebrate when my friends land an agent or sell a book. Looking on Publisher's Lunch and seeing the books that are selling helps too. It's still happening, and that gives me hope!

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  8. It's the hardest part, but it's also just as you said, natural. There is a reason for all of it, and we have to work with the process and the wonderful people involved to understand that.

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  9. The only person I'm impatient with is myself. Often times I just wish to be done with my manuscript. However, my "Type A" side won't allow me to rush anything. Thank goodness for it. I try to tell myself that the book will fall from the writing tree when it's ripe. The comforting thing is someday, I WILL get to harvest the fruits of my labor. Sorry for the metaphor. I tend to get cheesy when I'm tired.

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  10. I just LOVE your blog design...awesome.

    Great posts too. THANKS.

    New Follower.

    Stopping by to have a look around.

    Elizabeth

    http://silversolara.blogspot.com

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  11. Guys, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts about patience.

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  12. I don't like talking about writing to non-writing friends anymore, but sometimes it's fun to mention it to a stranger. I have learned to have a lot more patience this year I think. No more knee-jerk reactions. Either that or hubby slipped me a chill pill lol.

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  13. The other day a non-writer friend told me I was going about querying my MS all wrong, that I should be trying to get it made into a movie instead. Ai yi yi. I just smile. I'm most impatient with myself for never getting as much writing done as I want to. Yoo hoo, winning lottery ticket, so I can quit the day job.

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  14. I'm stuck firmly inside that closet for now! I'm not ready to deal with all the questions yet. Once I'm farther down that path maybe, but not yet! :)

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  15. Great patience tips. Thankfully the non-writers around me are supportive but don't ask unless I've set some kind of goal they can track. Like my BFF loves giving me a bad time if I don't make a word count goal :)

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  16. Hi, Julie. I was certainly impatient while the first book process went from accepted query, to contract, to returned edits, to e-book release day. Then I was impatient while I awaited the softcover release. After that, not so much.
    Now, at every stage of the game, there is always so many other things to be doing...like visiting the blogs of other writers. :) *waves*

    -Jimmy

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  17. Julie, Thank you for a beautiful post. As I read it I wondered where I'm impatient, and I believe it's with myself. Something I will definitely work on. Patience for others is easy.

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  18. Great post Julie. Yeah, the publishing industry is certainly slow but no one not involved in some way is going to understand that. I get annoyed with myself more than anyone else about the slowness of editing etc. as I'm a closet writer and don't tell too many about it, just so I can avoid those questions.

    Denise

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  19. I like to think of people who ask about my writing as my future readers. :) It took me a long time to feel comfortable "owning" being a writer--but now I try as much as I can to embrace it. And patience is an important virtue at every step of the writing journey. Good luck everyone!

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  20. Great post and a wonderful link to even more awesome links! Thank you!

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  21. good reminder, especially considering that this modern gotta have it now world is not so conducive to the virtue of patience.

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  22. Oh, I definitely want to climb back in the closet sometimes! A friend of mine didn't even tell her family that she wrote books until she had seven under her belt and a three-book contract. I can see the wisdom in that somehow ... But I guess doing it our way allows us to practice our virtues. :) This is trial by fire, for sure. (I had a nightmare the other night that I was getting all insulting rejections from publishers-- "This is terrible!" "I hate the main character!" "This person can't write!" It's funny now, but I woke up in a cold sweat! :))

    Amy

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  23. Those who other me most -- the ones who think all you do is decide you want to write a certain story, open a program and the words flow forth. It's done before you know it.

    Here's a quote for you: "It can't be that hard. It's not like it's true."

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  24. You can just go ahead and call me Job, because if there's one thing I've learned in the last 19 months, it's patience. I didn't know it was something I would need in abundance when I started out, but I'm learning to follow the advice of other writers & move on to another project so I'm not so overwhelmed by the lack of speed in the industry as a whole. It's not easy, but I'm muddling through.

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  25. YES! And no. It comes in waves for me. I find I'm less impatient and frustrated with all of it when I'm just blocking it all out and writing. That's what I've been doing lately. Ahh... :D Hang in there~ <3

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  26. patience is a virtue-and some of us don't always feel virtuous! but yes - your points on publishing are spot on. as a writer friend of mine once said - the industry moves with the swiftness of a glacier ;-)

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  27. I've definitely hit the point of wanting to crawl back in the closet lately. I can see people are asking just to be nice, but I have nothing new to tell them. It's hard to explain the glacial pace of the process to people out of the loop without it turning into a very long conversation. I guess that pressure to feel "legit" when I'm published is self-generated. *writer's funk* I'm trying to keep that smile and be patient.

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  28. I am completely impatient with myself. And, as much as I hate to admit it, I am as impatient as ever even though I am published. Because people want to know when the next book is coming out. There's always another mountain to climb.

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